The night ape is one of the smallest primates in the world, about the size of a squirrel, commonly found in the forested parts of Africa. The Afrikaans term is nagapie (little night ape). Another name for the delightful little creature is bushbaby, which I adopted (see my blurb). Despite its size, the night ape is exceptionally vocal, producing loud shrill cries surprisingly like those of a human baby.
I can attest to that, I had a bushbaby as a pet when I was thirteen: Little One. We got him from one of those Congolese trader s who used to stand by the side of the main roads to the other Copperbelt towns peddling everything from monkeys to parrots. The poor creatures were almost always starving, some of them barely a couple of weeks old, after being taken from mothers who’d been killed for their babies. I died a thousand deaths every time we passed one of these men. Thank God, it wasn’t that often.
Little One could fit into the palm of my hand when we got him. During the day, he slept in my dressing gown pocket, which I kept in my wardrobe. He got around by making kangaroo-like hops across my room or by simply walking or running on all four legs. When he got a fright, he’d shoot straight up in the air to a height of at least six feet with a loud shriek, his eyes almost popping out of his head. He loved to bounce from my dressing table to my desk to the curtain valance and then hang there before dropping down onto my bed. Mostly, I slept like a log. Other times, I’d call to him and he’d snuggle into my neck, making small tock tock sounds, his tail curling around my face in swirl of downy fur. And then one day, he got out. I was heartbroken. I kept a lookout for him for a long time.